Here’s the first question. You will know the correct answer right away, but I suggest you take a minute to truly evaluate if the correct answer is your honest answer.
Are you on your referral sources’ side?
The question immediately takes me back to my childhood, watching Saturday morning cartoons where the heroes and villains each had a side. I remember sitting cross-legged on the floor in my pajamas eating cereal and taking comfort in the idea that regardless of whether you were wearing the white hat or the black hat, there were others on your side who had your back.
Fast-forward to now, and we realize more than ever how important it is to have the right people on our side in the business world. Being able to count on someone who has your best interest in mind allows you to focus on other areas where you yourself can provide the most value. The most successful people align themselves with others that they can depend on. Do your referral sources think of you this way?
It’s easy to say that we always have our referral sources’ best interest in mind, but often we let our own needs outweigh those of the very people we rely on to stay in business. Have you every received a call at 4:30 p.m. on Friday looking for a same-day patient admit with a low-reimbursement insurance? How about when you are asked to never fax an order, and the doctor is located 15 miles out of town at the very edge of your service area? Moments like these make it hard to keep your referral source’s needs top priority, but each one is an opportunity to solidify your company as their partner in care.
So what does it mean to be on their side? I illustrated some extreme (though all too common) examples above, but knowing what puts you on their side requires a deeper analysis. Let’s look at a few more tough questions.
Do you ever have to go out of your way to help a referral source?
This is the simplest way to know if your referral source is a priority for you. If you are on their side, you will be willing to make efforts that are not always convenient. This does not mean that you are willing to constantly lose money on them, but you will most likely be required to put their wants before yours in the relationship.
What values are most important to your referral source (both personal and professional)?
How well do you really know your referral source? As a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) evangelist, I place a high value in knowing and tracking as much information about a referral source as possible. It’s not good enough to just know a name or a face. We need to know what matters most to our referral sources in order to not miss an opportunity to honor those things. If you are on their side, you will know both personal and professional details about them. They are not just clients; they are friends.
Give your referral sources a reason to believe you are on their side. Highlighting the areas that you do better than the rest is the perfect way to demonstrate your commitment.
Why does your referral source choose to refer to you?
There could be any number of other companies reaching out to your referral sources, but yet they choose to refer to you. If you don’t know why they refer to you, there is no way to ensure that they’ll keep doing it. Subsequently, how can you be on their side if you have no idea why they have chosen to be on yours? Determine what it is about your service that keeps the referrals coming in, and then focus on maximizing that unique trait.
If that referral source isn’t sending 100% of their referrals to you, do you know why?
Very rarely do we achieve total loyalty from a referral source. Have you ever considered why that may be? There can be any number of factors. The key is to figure out why they refer to other providers and how you can steer those patients in your direction. Not accepting certain insurances or having patients outside of your service area are two reasons that some of those referrals may not come your way, but most of the time your competitors are winning your potential business by being great sales people.
What does a referral source gain by choosing your company over your competitor?
This is the big, tough question. There used to be an old saying, “A nurse is a nurse is a nurse.” The idea being that if you are a nurse, no matter what setting you find yourself in, you will be able to care for a patient. Due to modern specialized medicine, we know that saying to be false. But what if we said, “A home health agency is a home health agency is a home health agency.” Would you agree? It’s scary to realize that many of your referral sources would.
This is exactly why you need to ensure that everyone in your company knows what sets you apart from your competition. Give your referral sources a reason to believe you are on their side. Highlighting the areas that you do better than the rest is the perfect way to demonstrate your commitment.
After answering these questions and taking a look in the mirror, how do you plan to improve your relationships with referral sources? They need to know that you are rooting for them and that you will support them in their personal and professional endeavors. When you build that kind of rapport, you are sure to experience tremendous growth built on long-lasting connections.